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What were they thinking? Underachieving Marlins fall way short of playoff expectations


MIAMI — Six months and 91 losses later, it's hard to remember why the Miami Marlins thought they were breaking spring training camp with a playoff contender.

Little went as planned. Opening day starter Henderson Alvarez didn't win a game all year. The rotation to start the season finished 24-37. Ace Jose Fernandez made a comeback from Tommy John surgery but later returned to the disabled list. Closer Steve Cishek blew four of seven save chances and lost his job.

The lineup didn't pan out, either. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and first baseman Michael Morse were busts and gone by midseason. Center fielder Marcell Ozuna struggled and spent time in the minors. Left fielder Christian Yelich got off to a horrible start and endured two stints on the disabled list.

Worst of all, $325 million right fielder Giancarlo Stanton hit 27 homers in his first 74 games, but was then sidelined for the season by a broken left hand.

Manager Mike Redmond was fired after only 38 games, and the odd choice of general manager Dan Jennings as his replacement failed to turn things around. The Marlins finished below .500 for the sixth year in a row, and they'll sit out the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year, the longest active drought in the NL.

Here are things to know as the Marlins begin another long offseason:

PHOTO: Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings, left, watches his team play the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings, left, watches his team play the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

KEY HITS: Newcomer Dee Gordon became the first NL player since Jackie Robinson in 1949 to win both the batting and stolen base titles. He also became the first NL player since Honus Wagner in 1908 to lead the majors in hits and stolen bases. The Marlins uncovered a couple of potential gems in rookie catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Justin Bour, who hit 23 homers.

Right-hander Carter Capps (1.16 ERA, 58 strikeouts in 31 innings) consistently threw 100 mph and emerged as a potential closer. Rookie right-hander Adam Conley and left-hander Justin Nicolino pitched well enough to be considered candidates for the rotation in 2016.

COSTLY ERRORS: The acquisitions of first baseman Morse (.213 in 53 games) and right-hander Mat Latos failed to pay off, and both were traded. And talk that the Marlins had baseball's best outfield turned out to be vastly overblown, with Yelich and Ozuna driving in only 44 runs apiece.

NEW MANAGER: The Marlins have begun searching for a replacement for Jennings, and candidates include former major-league managers Manny Acta, Larry Bowa and Bo Porter. It's uncertain whether Jennings will return to the Marlins' front office.

STATUS OF THEIR STARS: In the first season of his record 13-year contract, Stanton led the majors in homers and RBIs when he was hurt June 26. He was expected to be sidelined only four to six weeks, but never returned from a broken hamate bone. As a result, for the second year in a row he'll go into spring training coming off a season-ending injury.

Fernandez appeared fully recovered from elbow surgery, going 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts, and set a modern major-league record by improving to 17-0 at home. But he returned to the DL for a month late in the season with a strained right biceps, and doubts about his health will linger into next year.

OFFSEASON MOVES: The Marlins still believe their core of young talent is championship caliber. Owner Jeffrey Loria's familiar payroll constraints will limit activity this winter, but the Marlins might part with Ozuna while seeking to bolster the rotation.

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